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TCA: Fox Execs Discuss American Idol, Terra Nova

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Fox opened its executive session with Kevin Reilly, president, Entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company and Peter Rice, chairman, Entertainment, Fox Networks Group, with a statement about American Idol. Said Peter Rice:

“I think I’d like to start by talking about Ellen’s departure and giving you a little bit of the background on that. In early June, I met with Ellen, and we talked about the season and her feelings, and really, the idea that she wasn’t comfortable. She didn’t feel like it was a good fit for her. I tried to persuade her that it would be different in the future, but ultimately we came to an agreement that we would begin to look for new judges. We were doing that anyway because Simon was leaving. And as that played out over the course of the summer, that we would come to an agreement to either say to her we can’t replace you or to say that we feel that we can move on without you, so that’s sort of where we got to last week.

The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty right now is that no one has signed a deal yet on either side of the camera to join American Idol next year who wasn’t on it last year. And I know that that is it’s not particularly a fun announcement. It’s certainly not the choice I would have made, but it is the truth as we sit here today, that there are no signed deals with anybody.”

In a perfect TV world, Fox would end American Idol while it is still on top. But we all know, of course, that the network will bleed it dry until it has no dignity left. Added Rice:

“I think the goal has to be to put on a great television show, and there’s two parts of that. There’s a journey of finding these kids and searching for a new superstar, and there is the sort of alchemy and relationship with the judges’ panel. And does that mean that we should replace them identically and sort of cast the same person? I don’t think so, but I think we have an obligation to put on the best TV show we think we can put on.”

Moving on, upcoming Steven Spielberg produced drama Terra Nova, which was originally scheduled for midseason, has been pushed back until fall 2011, with a preview episode slated for May.

“We’re going to be able to do the pilot right and have an enormous jump on that on the marketing side,” said Kevin Reilly. “Hopefully we can recreate the same thing we did with Glee, let people understand the show, give them materials over the summer that we’ve already shot, and invest them in it. In success, this is a show that needs to be ahead in cycle. This is not a show where they can finish on one week and three weeks later it’s on the air. That’s just not going to be possible. We need to be ahead of it. This cycle sets us up for that.”

On the subject of diversity:

“We want our shows to reflect the world in which we live, and they are written by show-runners, and they come in, and we read them,” said Rice. “And the pilots we made this year had a very broad spectrum of the world in which we live. And it’s hard to then look at it and pick up the shows based on that. We picked up the series based on how we felt about the writing and the casting of those particular shows. You know, Glee is a show which is perhaps the most diverse show in television right now.”

Since Fox, of course, relies heavily on the ongoing success of American Idol in midseason, the network is hoping to have more specific information in the near future on just who will be inheriting the available judging chairs. But even if rumored Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler join the reality/competition, there is no reason to think this will stop the audience bleeding. And Fox’s once lock for dominance in the key young adult demographics could very well be over.